U.S. Army sergeant pleads guilty to killing 16 Afghan civilians in 2012
Guilty plea U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians in a late night rampage in 2012, pleaded guilty on Wednesday (BBC, NYT, WSJ). The plea ensures he will avoid the death penalty and leaves a jury to decide whether he should face life in prison with or without the chance ...
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians in a late night rampage in 2012, pleaded guilty on Wednesday (BBC, NYT, WSJ). The plea ensures he will avoid the death penalty and leaves a jury to decide whether he should face life in prison with or without the chance for parole. The plea has angered many family members of those killed, with some even promising revenge (Post). When asked why he killed the villagers, many of whom were women and children, Bales said, "This act was without legal justification…there’s not a good reason in this world for why I did the horrible things I did."
After a two-day meeting in Brussels, NATO defense ministers endorsed an outline on Wednesday for Operation Resolute Support, the coalition’s scaled-down post-2014 Afghan mission (Pajhwok, RFEFL). While the final troop numbers are still unknown, member countries have determined where they will serve. Germany has agreed to serve as the lead nation in the north, Italy will support the west, and Turkey is "favorably considering" being the lead nation in Kabul (Reuters). The U.S. will take the lead training role and support districts in the south and the east (Post).
Three children were killed and seven others were wounded on Thursday when their house in Kunar province was struck by what locals reported was a drone (Pajhwok). Surviving family members have insisted they are innocent of any wrongdoing and it is unclear who in the family could have been a target. Elsewhere, two tribal elders were shot and killed, and a third was seriously injured by unidentified gunmen in Farah province on Thursday (Pajhwok). No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Abdur Rahman Zhwandai, the governor’s spokesman, blamed the Taliban.
The leaders of Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan officially inaugurated the construction of a new railway system connecting the three nations on Wednesday (RFEFL). Presidents Hamid Karzai, Emomali Rahmon, and Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov buried a time capsule under the first section of the railway line in Turkmenistan’s Lebap province. It is hoped the 400 km, $1.5 billion project will boost trade between the three countries and the rest of the continent (Reuters).
Call to end strikes
In his first address to parliament since being re-elected prime minister, Nawaz Sharif called for an end to U.S. drone strikes (BBC, ET, NYT, Reuters). While he reiterated that these strikes violate Pakistan’s sovereignty, Sharif also noted U.S. concerns about militancy in the country need to be addressed – though he stopped short of mentioning any particular groups by name. "We must learn others’ concerns about us, and express our concerns about them, and find a way to resolve the issue," Sharif said, highlighting the need for a joint strategy to end the campaign (BBC).
After Sharif was officially sworn in, representatives from both Afghanistan and the United States welcomed his appointment and expressed hope that the countries would continue to work together. Afghan President Hamid Karzai called Sharif on Thursday and said strong ties between the two countries would bolster peace and stability in the region (Dawn, Pajhwok). Jen Psaki, a U.S. State Department spokeswoman, commended the historic, peaceful transfer of power in Pakistan and stated there was a "strong, ongoing dialogue" between the two countries on all aspects of their relationship, including security and counterterrorism cooperation (Dawn).
At least one woman died and another was injured on Thursday after being hit by stray bullets fired by supporters celebrating Sharif’s swearing-in (ET). According to police, around 100 Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) activists in Sindh province took to the streets and fired their weapons into the air.
Three Pakistani Taliban members and two women died, and 16 security personnel were injured on Thursday when a search operation in Quetta turned violent (Dawn, ET). During the four-hour siege, militants attacked the security forces with hand grenades and gunfire, which caused the injuries. The siege ended when three militants blew themselves up and the security forces cleared the area.
No, no, you go
With this week’s peaceful transfer of power between two democratically elected civilian governments, many people in Pakistan believe the days of military supremacy are over. But Pakistan’s traffic patterns belie that optimism. As Nawaz Sharif left his house to be sworn in as Pakistan’s new prime minister, his convoy was stopped for about two to three minutes to let the Army chief’s convoy move towards parliament unobstructed (Dawn). While it may have just been a coincidence, one can’t help wondering if it was a sign of tensions to come.
— Jennifer Rowland and Bailey Caha
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